Monday, February 20, 2012

Coffee and Cancer

"Everything is meaningless."  I just ran into a friend of mine whose husband is dying of stomach cancer.  It's not pretty.  It's not pleasant to hear about.  It's not easy to talk about.  But she's my friend, she's hurting and her husband is dying.  He's suffering.  He's in pain.  From the look in her eyes, I could feel his pain emanating though her, even though he is currently miles away in a hospital room.  When talking with her, I felt how obvious, real and close their relationship is.  It was almost as if he was just behind her eyes, shaking his head in disbelief and pleading with me to help them both.  It was very real.  This is real.  It's life.  It's death.  It's pain, in a very real, raw and powerful form.

It hit me like a ton of bricks as I helped my friend carry some boxes to her car.  They are having to move from their home because of expenses.  She works at Starbucks and actually seems to enjoy what she is doing.  I think it gets her mind of everything, her life, her pain.  But how can serving coffee to fools like me pay the bills for such heavy expenses?  There was a time when her husband did very well in his career, but today it's different.  There was a time when they didn't worry about paying bills, didn't worry about hospitals, chemo and death.  There was a time when their plans of life did not include getting a nice case of stomach cancer, loosing a career, working at a coffee shop, watching a loved one die an agonizing death or spending their retirement days wondering how to pay the bills.  But it's life.  Their life.  And it brought me to tears just before I wrote this.

She was working just above me, at the counter, pumping coffee flavors into white paper cups.  I was banging away on my laptop, trying to write something, and watching her as well.  She gave me something to write about today.  I wonder if she knows that.  Sonny and Cher were singing "I Got You Babe" over the speakers above us.  She began to sing along.  Not just humming, but singing in a soft, beautiful voice that caused me to stop typing and start listen.  I thought of her and her husband.  I thought of another time when they were young.  I wonder if that song meant something to them years and years ago.  It was the way she sang it.  I could her her singing to him.  Maybe she's sing it to him when she gets to the hospital today.  "Then put your little hand in mine. There 'aint no hill or mountain we can't climb."

I was up early this morning.  My dog casually threw up on my bed as he laid next to me.  That kind of ended my goal of sleeping a little later this morning.  But everything has a reason.  I got to my favorite coffee shop to write and two men were talking about life and their faith.  I'm not sure exactly what their conversation was about, but one man said to the other, "This kind of crap makes no sense at all.  Why do these kinds of things happen to good people?  People that follow God?  People that always try and do the right thing?"   Prophecy for me maybe?  Was this conversation intended for my encounter with my friend?  She's not the one that uttered these words, although I'm sure that she shares that sentiment.   She works at a different coffee shop that is miles away.  I made my way there because my first choice was too crowed and loud.  But I was there.  I heard those words.  And I answer them to myself, even though my friend is not here to respond.

"The same destiny ultimately awaits everyone, whether righteous or wicked, good or bad, ceremonially clean or unclean, religious or irreligious. Good people receive the same treatment as sinners, and people who make promises to God are treated like people who don't." (Ecclesiastes 9:2 - NLT)

And the wheels on the bus go round and round.
"I don't understand what's going on.  I hate my life!  Since either way it ends up the same, I can only conclude that God destroys the good right along with the bad." (Job 9:22 - The Message)

I don't understand either.  And sometimes I hate my life as well.  I don't have the answers.

God "causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:45 - NIV)

Ashes to ashes, we all fall down.  

"Until you return to that ground yourself, dead and buried; you started out as dirt, you'll end up dirt." (Genesis 3:19 - The Message)

I don't know.  I guess what I'm getting at is that God never painted a beautiful, blissful picture of what our lives were life.  We live in a culture that recoils at the thought of even the hint of pain and suffering, and we're shocked when it falls on us.  All the while, God gently whispers to our disapproval of life circumstances with a very matter of fact, "I beg your pardon.  I never promised you a rose garden."  Instead, the stark reality is that life sucks.  Plain and simple.  Bumper sticker philosophy.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble." (John 16:33 - NIV)

Translation: "Don't be surprised when the proverbial shit hits the fan.  I told you that it would.  I told you it would make a mess.  I told you that it would stink.  So, just accept it for what it is and move on, OK?" 

But the one thing that remains clear, and it's why I wrote this blog to begin with.  In the exact same verse Jesus say that we are commanded to "love one another".  Proverbs also tells us that "love covers over all wrongs."  And 1 John 4:8 tells us that God is love. 

There is so much hate in our world today, isn't there?  Don't you just feel like screaming, "Enough!"   So, I come to this very realistic, but sobering conclusion: when we love one another, we are in essence, showing God to one another, in a very real way.  He is manifest in the flesh through us, the Body of Christ, the Church and living as the Church is supposed to live.  And when we show others God, He covers over all the garbage and refuse that we walk around in every day of our lives.  And that is the equalizing factor that makes this life bearable.  That is the one aspect that brings unity among us all and gives purpose and reason to this sometime meaningless existence.  

"Love one another." 


Mo said...

Absolutely wonderful posting, Jake. Naked and true and real - and loving.

Kara said...

Wow. I'm damn near speechless (which rarely happens). I'm reading this post after skimming across your blog for the first time. I'm reading this as I sit at a cancer center holding my friend's hand as he gets chemo treatment for stage 4 colon cancer. And we're reading your words through tears. Thanks for your honesty. Love it!

Jake Kampe said...

Thank you, Kara. I'm blessed to read your comments. Prayers for you and your friend!